Insect Allergies - Chicago

Allergic reactions to insects such as bees, wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets are reported in 0.4 to 3% of the general population. Fire ants are an increasingly common cause of insect allergies in the southeastern region of the United States.  Females appear to be twice as likely to develop an allergic reaction compared to males. Each year about 45 deaths are attributed to insect stings in the United States. Risk factors for a severe or fatal allergic reaction include heart disease, emphysema, and uncontrolled asthma.

Systemic or an Anaphylactic reaction

It is important to distinguish between a true allergic reaction to insects (also referred to as a “systemic” or an “anaphylactic” reaction) and a local reaction. Many people experiencing an insect sting may develop local swelling, redness, and pain at the sting site. This type of local reaction does not usually indicate an allergic reaction and typically does not pose a significant risk following future insect stings.  A true allergic reaction, however, is characterized by one or more of the following:

  • Generalized hives (welts) or redness
  • Itching throughout the body
  • Swelling of the tongue, throat, or face
  • Abdominal pain, cramping, or diarrhea
  • Light-headedness, decreased blood pressure, or shock (in severe cases)
  • Wheezing, shortness-of-breath, coughing, or chest tightness

A person experiencing a true allergic reaction to insects should immediately call 911 and also should follow up with an allergist specializing in insect allergies. The allergist can perform skin and/or blood tests to the likely insects involved in the sting. If the tests are positive, your allergy doctor will likely recommend allergy shots (also referred to as immunotherapy).  Allergy shots can be life-saving. Approximately 97% of patients receiving an adequate allergy shot regimen will be protected during subsequent insect stings. It is important for all people suspected of having an insect allergy to be properly evaluated by their doctor. Those that have not yet completed an allergy shot program for their insect allergy should carry an Epi-pen (adrenalin shot) with them at all times.

Contact Dermatitis

is an inflammation of the skin
Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis is a localized rash or irritation of the skin caused by contact with a substance that is foreign to the body

Causes of Contact Dermatitis

Substances that commonly cause Contact Dermatitis include:

  • plant sap
  • metals
  • cleaning solutions
  • cosmetic additives
  • perfumes
  • industrial chemicals
  • latex rubber additives